Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a maritime nation, home to beautiful coastal environments and rich in marine resources. From lush mangrove estuaries to sprawling reefs, the marine habitats of PNG are ideally suited to fisheries. To safeguard the economic viability of these fisheries and the ecosystems that support them, these resources have to be managed properly.

EAFM training participants from PNG with their certificates.

An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) offers a more holistic approach, focusing not only on the sustainable harvest of target species, but moving towards systems and decision-making processes that balance ecological well-being with human and societal welfare. This is achieved through the implementation of improved governance frameworks (i.e., a practical way to achieve sustainable development).

EAFM addresses the multiple needs and desires of societies, without jeopardising future generations’ capacity to benefit from the full range of goods and services provided by marine ecosystems (Garcia et al., 2003; Food and Agriculture Organization 2003, 2011). To date, EAFM remains under-developed in PNG. One of the reasons for this is a lack of proper training for personnel in the relevant implementing agencies.

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Under the auspices of the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme, Fishwell Consulting and Starling Resources were commissioned to deliver training to fisheries managers from Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. The five-day training was conducted on 14 – 18 June 2021. The participants were trained to consider field-based conditions, limitations and opportunities, and ensure that key stakeholders are aware of and support the activities and the objectives related to the ATS Snapper management.

A PNG trainee participating in the EAFM training

Prior to the EAFM training, fisheries and marine ecosystem managers in PNG did not know a great deal about how to apply the approach to fisheries management issues. However, by the time it had been completed, they clearly recognised factors impacting fisheries that are not being targeted under current management strategies. Dr Ralph Mana, a marine science professor at the University of Papua New Guinea, found the training very useful for fisheries management and suggested that the discipline should be taught as a fisheries management course at the university, in order to train future fisheries managers of PNG.

The participatory nature of the regional training was very useful. It encouraged participants from fisheries and environment fields to contribute their industry experience to compare and contrast between the current approach to fisheries management and EAFM. Both within the PNG group and with other participating countries, much was learned through this approach. This also made the context and purpose of the training clearer, while helping to make its content more easily understood.

Working together, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) of PNG and Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) will implement the Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase 2 (ATSEA-2) Programme in the South Fly district of Western province based on the principles of EAFM. The ATSEA-2 Programme’s artisanal fisheries management plan, which includes Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the protection of critical habitats and endangered species, will also implement EAFM.

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First to implement this approach will be the South Fly Artisanal Fisheries Management Plan. In addition, a similar plan is currently being written for the wider ATS region. Some EAFM-trained personnel will participate in training of trainers (ToT) and will also become more strategically involved in training fisheries managers of the South Fly district, to facilitate the wider implementation of EAFM. Following successful implementation in South Fly, the ATSEA-2 Programme can be used as a model for trialling similar approaches in other fisheries around PNG.

(Kenneth Yhuanje)